TRAVEL FRAGMENTS - A LONG WEEKEND IN TAIPEI, TAIWAN.

Taipei is a unique mix of old-school traditions, high-design shops and eateries and truly lovely people. The city is atmospheric and slower-paced than the mega Chinese urban giants, and we loved roaming the atmospheric Da'an neighbourhood in particular. Our visit coincided with the Art Taipei biennale for a healthy dose of contemporary art from all over the region. Taipei was very kid-friendly, locals are genuinely helpful and the majority of venues are equipped with baby-changing facilities, high chairs and the like. We stayed in Hotel Eclat, in chic, well-appointed inter-connecting family rooms (why, oh why, don't more hotels offer this service!). We enjoyed Taipei so much that we are already ready planning a lengthier return visit to Taiwan. Enjoy a few off-the-beaten track Taipei recommendations below !

1- Huashan 1914 Creative space

This abandoned industrial site has been transformed into a bustling cultural centre. It hosts a cinema, kids workshops, some pop retail (from Patagonia, to wooden kids toys to local fashion) and great food options. It was buzzy but not over-crowded when we visited on a saturday and we ended spending a good half day exploring the venue. We had a pretty sensational lunch at the rustic italian eatery on the premises (I am working hard to try and find its name!), food was sensational and the modern industrial decor was smart. A great place to visit with kids and people-watch!

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Huashan 1914 creative space is rather centrally located and we decided to walk all the way from Dan'an. It is a pleasant walk through the urban art of Taipei, with some pretty cool street art.

2- Da'an district and Dongfeng Lu

We spent the majority of our time exploring the small lane ways of Da'an district around Hotel Eclat. This is a cool and quirky residential district, with a great mix of traditional and trendy venues. Walking around under the rain or at night was pretty magical, with the neons reflecting on the wet asphalt. For reasons I cannot fully explain, it reminded me of the Wong Kar Wai movie Chungking Express, although it was shot in Hong Kong. Dongfeng Lu has a great selection of hip restaurants and bars, and we were really impressed by the quality of design and decor.....although with 3 kids in tow, we were often only peering in! Lunch at modern Sichuanese was awesome and very easy with kids.

3- Swell Cafe, Siwei Road

One of our motivation for coming back to Taiwan and exploring the rest of the island is its renowned surfing. What we did not expect was to find an urban surf scene in Taipei. Swell Cafe on Siwei Road, a stone's throw from the aforementioned Dongfeng Street, was a great find. It seems that had just opened, the decor is suitably surf-inspired, staff are friendly and laid-back, and coffee was great. They also offer simple but tasty meals and snacks and did not bat an eyelid when we significantly lowered the age average of their usual hip mid-twenties customers with a few kiddos.